WASHINGTON (AP) – The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to the country’s capital as it prepares for trucker convoy planning to fight epidemics starting next week.
The Pentagon said in a statement Tuesday night that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had approved the request of the Colombian government and US Capital Police.
The Pentagon has said troops will be deployed to assist traffic control during expected protests in the city in the coming days. Four hundred policemen from the Columbia Police District will join 300 policemen from other states, the report said.
The Pentagon has said that members of the Guard will not carry guns or participate in law enforcement or domestic surveillance activities.
Individual truck convoys are planned through online forums with names such as People’s Convoy and American Truckers Freedom Fund – modeled on recent trucker struggles in Canada – all with different starting points, departure dates and routes. Some will arrive just in time for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, while others may come later.
Following the recent Canadian truckers’ struggle, the convoy closed the U.S.-Canadian border and cordoned off the streets of the capital, Ottawa, for weeks. With more than 100 people arrested last week, police have broken down several barricades.
It remains to be seen whether anyone in the U.S. convoy will actively seek to close the streets of Washington, as their Canadian counterparts did in Ottawa. Some convoy organizers talked about plans to briefly move the city and then focus on closing the beltway around the capital.
The People Convoy report specifically states that trucks “do not go into proper DC”. The convoy is scheduled to depart Southern California on Wednesday and arrive in DC on March 5th.
U.S. convoys seek to immediately remove what they claim are strict government epidemic controls, such as mask orders and vaccine requirements. The American Truckers Freedom Fund website says the group opposes the federal government’s “unscientific, unconstitutional encroachment.”
Vaccines have proven to be very effective in preventing Govt-19 infections, especially acute illness and death, and high-quality masks provide strong protection against the spread or contraction of the disease. As the epidemic approaches its third year, public sentiment, especially among conservatives, shifts against government orders.
People’s convoy organizer Mike Landis said in video evidence on the group’s website that the current Govt vaccine is “not yet proven” but supports the personal choice of whether or not to take it. Landis said the convoy would be open to all vehicles, and said the primary goal was to put pressure on Biden to lift the national emergency.
“We want this government to bring back the constitution,” Landis said. “We do not want to be under a dictatorial communist-style regime like where we are now.”
In March 2020, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the United States. Last week, Biden announced his intention to extend it beyond the current March 1 expiration date.
Websites that organize American trucker convoy directly refer to the inspiration for the Canadian movement. A statement on the People’s Conway website pays homage to “our brave and courageous neighbors in the North – our Canadian brothers and sisters.”
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Conte said Friday that his department was closely monitoring the change and would dedicate an additional police manhole to the next few weeks with extreme caution. Meanwhile, he warned DC residents to be vigilant about unexpected traffic jams.
“Traffic will be disrupted, that’s the kind of thing,” Conte said. “Based on what we’ve seen in Ottawa, I think the public should be very honest about what some of the expectations we can see here in the district are.”
Conte called the Ottawa stalemate “an incredible situation – something we have not seen in the District of Columbia.”
On January 6, 2021, just days before the uprising in the Capitol building, Conte and Mayor Muriel Bowser predicted unrest. They warned residents to stay indoors and called for additional evidence, but when a crowd of Trump supporters stormed the building, Capitol Police and the National Guard were not yet ready, resulting in multiple deaths and numerous injuries.
The lingering memories of that failure have sparked much concern and speculation about the upcoming convoy. But Bowser said residents have not yet been warned to avoid the Capitol area or the National Mall.
“We are not yet in a position to provide specific guidelines to residents. We will,” Bowser said.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”